A screaming cape, a ladylike error, and sometimes grey

It’s probably not ladylike to point out writing errors by professional writers, but I’ve never been mistaken for a lady. When I saw three errors in a single sentence on Yahoo! Style, I knew I had to say something:

What did the writer think “a lady like pink” means? That there’s a lady who likes pink? Uh, no. She meant “a ladylike pink.” That’s something completely different. Also different is the spelling of grey. Although it’s not technically wrong, some U.S. authorities consider it a chiefly British spelling, and all suggest that gray is the preferred spelling.

That sound you hear is me screaming: Seeing mistakes like that makes me literally scream. But can a cape literally scream? No, but it can figuratively scream.


It’s a miracle!

It’s a freakin’ miracle! Imagine one minute you’re holding a photo of your long deceased Grandpa Joe and the next minute he’s alive, standing in front of you. That’s the promise from Yahoo! DIY, which tells you how to bring your pictures to life…literally:

literally to life diy

They’re not talking metaphorically or figuratively. They mean literally. Actually, no they don’t mean literally; they mean metaphorically or figuratively. But I quibble. Literally.

Literally, an embarrassment

Why do writers use words that they don’t understand and wind up just embarrassing themselves? Here, the writer for Yahoo! Style wants us to believe that athletic women actually, physically run to the top of the business world:

literally style 1

Since “the top of the business world” is a figure of speech, those women could not possibly literally run there. But they could figuratively run there. (Here’s a hint: Don’t use literally. Ever. Even if you don’t misuse it, your readers will think you did.)

This writer is so sure of her elementary school vocabulary that she’s telling you what she wrote is “not a metaphor”:

literally style 2

Well, honey, it is a metaphor. Unless the businesswomen kicked the CEO in the family jewels and commandeered his office, you are writing metaphorically.

The writing problem I can’t fix

In my decades of editing, I’ve come across a vast array of writing problems that I could easily correct, and maybe teach the writer something in the process. I can correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Most writers learn from the experience. But the one problem I’ve never been able to fix is a writer’s lack of logical thinking. I may be able to rewrite an illogical sentence, but I have never been able to change the thinking of the writer who constructed the nonsensical passage.

I was reminded of that when I read this opening paragraph on Yahoo! Style:

karl style

The writer contends that Karl Lagerfeld can’t be 100 years old because he has no adult children. That faulty assumption was based on a quote from Mr. Lagerfeld. But Mr. Lagerfeld said (at least according to the writer), that adult children made one look 100. Knowing that the designer has no adult children, what can you derive about his appearance? Nothing. About his age? Nothing. It’s a problem in thinking that I’d be challenged to correct.

The rest of the errors in the paragraph are easy to fix. (What’s difficult is trying to imagine how a professional writer could make them in the first place.) I have no problem with the word umpteenth, except that the writer meant umpteen.

I have no idea how “your new fashion newspaper” is related to the fashion labels it’s lumped in with. And a dozens could be charitably called a typo, though I’m not sure it is.

Does Mr. Lagerfeld own a Graf Zeppelin, a great white shark, and a copy of “Weird Al” Yankovich’s “Dare to Be Stupid”? If not, then he doesn’t literally have everything. Just get rid of that word. Or do I have to explain the logic behind that, too?

Literally, an error

If tickets for professional basketball games sell for literal pocket change, then all you have to do is empty a pocket of all the change it holds, and you’ve got a ticket! If, on the other hand, the writer for Yahoo! Sports’ “Ball Don’t Lie” meant that tickets are inexpensive, then the writer was making a figurative reference:

literal pocket change

Literally, an embarrassment

So, this woman named Ms. Ross was betrayed by her husband and Kristen Stewart. Not only that, it literally occurred behind her back. All she had to do was turn around, and there they’d be, screwing like rabbits!

Of course, I speak figuratively of the rabbits. They weren’t literally screwing like bunnies. Just as they weren’t literally doing it behind anyone’s literal back.

I literally spit out my coffee

I did. I actually, really, truly, literally spit out my coffee when I read this on the Yahoo! front page:

That must have been quite a feat: Actually bringing books to life. Not figuratively, but literally. I can’t wait to see that video.

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